The Student Playlist

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REVIEW: Lucy Dacus – ‘Home Video’ (Matador)


In a sentence:

Though it fluctuates between intensely intimate moments and full-band productions, ‘Home Video’ is Lucy Dacus’ strongest album yet in lyrical terms.

Informed by her strict Christian upbringing and struggles with queerness, Lucy Dacus’ third album Home Video consists finely crafted vignettes from the past with inspiring specificity. Mixing Dacus’ signature levelled vocals and pointed wit with recollections of teenage friendships and the intense experiences that come with them, it’s a beautiful development from her previous, more abstract work. On Home Video, Dacus is at her most focused lyrically, peeling layer by layer away of her memories that through their singularity somehow feel more relatable than ever.

It’s not always easy to immerse yourself in your own adolescent memories, reading diaries that lodge from standstill avalanches of previous emotional rollercoasters that at times shake the core even harder years later. Lucy Dacus has managed to harness this feeling and generate a collection of songs that ebb and flow in how they express their musicality, but lyrically hit right every time. There’s space on the record for both vocals (almost) only (with soft undercurrents of piano, at times) and full band arrangements, blending her solo music work with her more band-like affairs, like her boygenius days.

Whilst the full band compositions catch the ear more easily for recollection later, such as ‘VBS’ and ‘First Time’ that strike the sweet spot of catchiness and emotional heft, the former adding some rash grunge into the otherwise soft mix, it’s on those vocal-led tracks that Dacus’ open-heartedness shines the hardest. ‘Thumbs’ is minimalistic, but it’s the song’s candour on homicide for a friend that elevates it to that special place in Lucy Dacus’ discography. A track she’s been playing live for a while, it’s been shrouded in a level of secrecy as Dacus would request the crowd not to record during performance.

Whilst the track centers on a daydream most adolescents joke about to some extent – killing someone who’s hurt your best friend (“If you ever need to hide a body, I’m the first you need to call”), the way Dacus writes and sings it hits harder. Intertwined with the narrative of an absent father, the type of murder she describes – “I lovе your eyes / And he has thеm / Or you have his / ‘Cause he was first / I imagine my thumbs on the irises / Pressing in until they burst” – feels extremely personal and pointed, haunting with its serious intent. It’s in moments like these where Dacus’ love for words and literature shine the hardest, and her willingness to be so baring on this record – basing most of it on specific memories sourced from home movies and diary entries – is so welcome. 

The fluctuation between full band and full lyricism at times is jarring, but either way Home Video feels like an extremely emotional, personal and gifted experience from Lucy Dacus. One can’t help but feel grateful to be let into the fictionalised world of Dacus’ past, with themes of queer friendship and relationships that reveal more about ourselves and our differences than provide connection. The energy on the record flutters in that soft, awkward yet determined way most teenagers approach the world, with a heart full of willingness to do good and to change others. Most of it is confrontational, Dacus addressing someone in song, whether to assure them they deserve better, slyly remind them of their pretentious past, or daring to run away together due to their family’s fatalistic outlook as prevention from gayness. And whilst her soft, low voice and signature storytelling is the common ground between all her albums, it’s the intimate details and the touches of distortion that make her songwriting shine on Home Video harder than ever before. (7/10) (Aiste Samuchovaite)

Listen to Home Video by Lucy Dacus here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!

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